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8. The main outcomes of the meeting are the following:

Definition of Small-scale Fisheries

9. The Working Party agreed that it would be inappropriate to formulate a universally applicable definition for a sector as dynamic and diverse as small-scale fisheries. It felt that it would be best to describe the sector on the basis of the range of characteristics that are likely to be found in any particular small-scale fishery. The Working Party endorsed with slight modification the characterization that was used by the FAO Committee on Fisheries at its Twenty-fifth Session which is as follows:

“Small-scale fisheries can be broadly characterized as a dynamic and evolving sector employing labour intensive harvesting, processing and distribution technologies to exploit marine and inland water fishery resources. The activities of this sub-sector, conducted full-time or part-time, or just seasonally, are often targeted on supplying fish and fishery products to local and domestic markets, and for subsistence consumption. Export-oriented production, however, has increased in many small-scale fisheries during the last one to two decades because of greater market integration and globalization. While typically men are engaged in fishing and women in fish processing and marketing, women are also known to engage in near shore harvesting activities and men are known to engage in fish marketing and distribution. Other ancillary activities such as net-making, boat-building, engine repair and maintenance, etc. can provide additional fishery-related employment and income opportunities in marine and inland fishing communities.

Small-scale fisheries operate at widely differing organizational levels ranging from self-employed single operators through informal micro-enterprises to formal sector businesses. This sub-sector, therefore, is not homogenous within and across countries and regions and attention to this fact is warranted when formulating strategies and policies for enhancing its contribution to food security and poverty allevation.”

A Vision for Small-scale Fisheries

10. The Working Party elaborated and agreed on the following vision for the sector[2]:

The vision for small-scale fisheries is one in which their contribution to sustainable development is fully realized. It is a vision where:

Contribution, Role and Importance of Small-scale Fisheries

11. The Working Party agreed with ACFR that the role and importance of small-scale fisheries was not fully appreciated by national governments, donor organizations and many international agreements/treaties in terms of the contribution they make to sustainable development, poverty alleviation and food security. In addressing this lack of recognition two main drivers were recognized - inadequate information and poor understanding of some of the fundamental social, economic and institutional dynamics affecting the sub-sector and lack of communication of the patchy but useful information already available. Even based on this information, it is understood that many millions of people in developing countries depend on small-scale fisheries for food, income and employment and in many countries a major share of the total fisheries harvest comes from small-scale fisheries.

12. In many cases the “official” statistics underestimate the true situation. The lack of human and institutional capacities (e.g. budget) of the national institutions in charge of these statistics (Departments of Fisheries [DOFs] but also research institutes) partially explains this situation. The very scattered and remote location of most small-scale fisheries further exacerbates this lack of information.

13. As far as the poor understanding of the socio-institutional mechanisms driving the sector are concerned (e.g. “last resort activity” mechanisms, interaction and synergy between fishing and other activities, etc.) the Working Party recognized that further research is urgently needed. A research programme is further elaborated in the next section of this report.

14. The Working Party felt that it is also important to design communication strategies that identify the target audience, tailor messages to reach that audience and to define media strategies to reach the intended target. The following could be considered as elements for a more elaborated communication plan:

- Informative workshops aimed at facilitating the exchange of information between planners and fisheries stakeholders. This would in particular address the current lack of representativeness of the fishery sector into the poverty reduction strategies.

- Organisation and coordination of fisheries fora at different levels (local, district, national and international) to foster stakeholder participation in the decision-making process, institutional development of the sub-sector and to raise awareness of their importance.

- Working with the fisheries departments as key-message carriers through to Ministers.

- Influencing the major donor agencies (in particular the World Bank -due to its large influence on national policies) to ensure that small-scale fisheries are part of their own agenda (e.g. World Bank Green Books)

- Considering the potential role of “pressure groups”, i.e. International NGOs, civil society, world fora, etc., in influencing the agenda setting and the policy process of national governments.

Draft Research Agenda for Small-scale Fisheries

15. In formulating a draft research agenda for small-scale fisheries, five main research themes were considered:

a) Policy legislation governance and institutional arrangements;

b) Contribution, relevance and importance of small-scale fisheries to national economies and livelihood;

c) Management approaches to small-scale fisheries;

d) Post harvest issues and trade; and

e) Information systems for small-scale fisheries.

16. Each theme was introduced by identifying the need for research in terms of the major issues, and then research programmes and topics/questions were developed.

a) Policy and institutional arrangements

17. Policy is the starting point that sets out the broad objectives and framework to guide relevant institutional arrangements, actions and decisions impacting on small-scale fisheries. The Working Party recognized that policy was required to address many, often competing objectives, that relate to resource conservation and sustainable use, economic, social/equity needs. In general, policies for resource use and economics tend to relate to the whole of the fisheries sector, while only social objectives are more directly linked to small-scale fisheries. The main issue is that policy is often poorly articulated both within and outside of the fisheries sector, and this, plus ineffective institutional arrangements in place to implement it, often results in a lack of an appropriate framework to guide fisheries management.

18. Three research programmes - (i) policy formulation, (ii) institutions/organizations and (iii) processes/instruments were developed and will be further elaborated in the draft technical document to be provided to the next meeting of ACFR.

b) Contribution, relevance and importance of small-scale fisheries to national economies and livelihood

19. The major issues under this research theme were outlined in paragraph 11-13 and not repeated here. Research to address these issues recognized the opportunities for the (i) potential of the sub-sector (including post-harvest and small-scale fish trading activities) in rural and national economic development, (ii) their potential for equity and re-distribution (both at national and local levels), and (iii) other social and environmental benefits that could result from a ‘healthy’ small-scale sub-sector.

c) Management approaches to small-scale fisheries

20. Under this theme, the Working Party recognized that there were many approaches to management of small-scale fisheries ranging from the conventional stock assessment/top down approach through to more modern participatory methods, such as co-management associated with the move to decentralization/delegation of government functions and right-based approaches. It also recognized that managers of a small-scale fishery have a large and diverse number of tools (including allocation, economic and social tools) that could be applied, but that there is little guidance on what may be appropriate and effective. The need to monitor and evaluate progress against fisheries management objectives was also noted and the crucial role of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) in small-scale fisheries highlighted. Capacity building was identified as a key element for improving the management of small-scale fisheries.

21. To address these issues, the Working Party formulated a number of research questions addressing (i) Higher level/overarching approaches and concepts (ii) Fisheries management approaches (iii) Management tools (iv) Monitoring and evaluation of management approaches and (iv) MCS.

d) Post-harvest issues and trade

22. Both intra-regional and international trade are becoming increasingly important to small-scale fisheries. This calls for increased investment in post-harvest activities and increased marketing capabilities to benefit from the new opportunities. The decisions on potential trade-offs between export-orientated versus local or regional demand need to be informed. The decentralized nature of small-scale fisheries could result in substantial employment generation, and housefold food security as well as retention of resource rents by fishing communities if trade opportunities are to be realized.

23. The research topics to address this theme were included in the same structure as the themes on the contribution, role and importance of small-scale fisheries, paragraphs 11-13 above.

e) Information systems for small-scale fisheries

24. While not exactly a research theme in its own right (although there are many research aspects related to it) it was felt that the development of Fishery Information Systems (FIS) warranted separate attention, as this is a critical component in bridging the gap between research and action and an effective framework for identifying needs of various information users ranging from informing policy decision-makers right through to implementing technology for individual fishers, processors and marketers.

25. The FIS was discussed in the context of examining the needs, data analyses and management, inputs, outputs of different user groups in a hierarchical structure that covered the international, national, district and local levels and the linkages between them, both in aggregating data and information upwards for use at higher levels in the hierarchy and downwards in terms of providing feedback, especially to the suppliers of the data. A range of issues was identified, especially in relation to integrating qualitative and quantitative data, techniques to improve information flow, integrating local knowledge, linkages between levels in the hierarchy, data quality and the need to review and make accessible existing data and information.

Strategies and Mechanisms to Bridge the Gap between Research and Action

26. The Working Party agreed that research was important to inform policies contributing to sustainable small-scale fisheries and could play an important role in empowerment, advocacy, and mobilization of resources. It was recognized that the number and types of end users of research are large and would include policy makers, donor organizations, fishers and fish workers, and civil society organizations.

27. The Working Party pointed out that bridging the gap between research and action could be facilitated by including more stakeholders, especially the end-users in the form of fishers and fish workers, in research. This would make it more demand led and increase ownership, and ensure that results are more likely to be useful for the end users. It was emphasized that research and communication go hand-in-hand and that there is a need for the development of effective communication techniques so that research results can be well presented in a way that is easily understood by the target audience. It was further stressed that in the presentation of research, their implications should be clearly articulated. Good research may not result in appropriate action for political reasons unless the benefits and implications are clearly communicated.

28. The Working Party emphasized the importance of funding as a major influence on the direction of research and support services. It also stressed that funding be allocated also for effective horizontal consultation and co-ordination amongst institutions, stakeholders and civil society organizations. Research will be most relevant and effective if it is embedded in a planning and review process, and this should solve some of the problems of bridging the gap by making research more action-orientated.

29. It was recognized that in many settings, human capacity was insufficient, and must be considered as a crucial and long term requirement to improve the linkages between research and action. In this respect it was suggested that retention and incentives are important issues, and that donor-funded research programmes should include long term aspects of capacity-building.

30. The timing requirements of research are very important. Good research to really understand complex realities takes considerable time, whereas the users of the research may require much quicker delivery. Researchers and end users would need to agree on realistic timeframes for the production of and dissemination of research results.

Key Elements to Include in the Draft Guidelines on Small-scale Fisheries

31. The historical background to this discussion was presented including the consideration by ACFR in 2000 of poverty issues in fisheries and the specific request by the Twenty-fifth Session of COFI, February 2003, that FAO elaborate, in the context of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, technical guidelines on increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security and poverty alleviation.

32. The Code contains references to small-scale fisheries but is perhaps more strongly focused on general fishery management and development issues. To assist in implementing the Code, guidelines are published and disseminated by FAO (not formally adopted by COFI). It was suggested that perhaps at some time in the future, it might be possible to amend the Code itself to better reflect the importance of small-scale fisheries, especially with regard to their potential to make a larger contribution to poverty reduction and food security. The Working Party was informed that FAO would convene, in 2004, an expert consultation to elaborate the proposed guidelines. In this context, the findings and recommendations of this Working Party will certainly make an important contribution.

33. It was felt important to consider a participatory approach in developing such guidelines and to assess lessons learned from the current extent to which the Code and other guidelines are actually implemented. Future guidelines might need to be field-tested, and should be carefully structured. The Working Party was informed that the Code itself is a codification of previous experience on best practice in fisheries, and if implemented should contribute towards sustainable development.

34. It was considered that it could be a major challenge to account in the guidelines for the wide diversity of different types of small-scale fisheries. For example, it was noted that the small-scale fisheries issues of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) may be rather different from those of other regions. The guidelines might also include aspects related to the communication strategies required to increase awareness about the important role and contribution of small-scale fisheries.

[2] This vision is adapted from: Berkes, F., R. Mahon, P. McConney, R. Pollnac and R. Pomeroy. 2001. Managing small-scale fisheries: Alternative directions and methods. IDRC, Ottawa, Canada, 308 p.

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